Just when I thought I am learned of the Vietnamese cuisine, an authentic dish is claimed to be found in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

Chao Long? I’ve never heard of the said noodle dish, until I was able to read a blog post from Carla and Christian.  I have been to Vietnam a number of times and none of my Vietnamese friends recommended to try this dish.  And fortunately, a very random trip leads me to experience authentic chao long in one of the famed restaurants of Puerto Princesa, Palawan specializing on the said dish – Rene’s Saigon.

Situated near the airport, a tricycle ride will get you to Rene’s Saigon through the aggressive drivers.  In less than thirty minutes, a façade of a residential house will greet you but with the commercial signage for the name of the restaurant at the front yard.  A cottage is set up outside the house, where we opted to settle and placed our orders.

The Vietnamese coffee landed on our dining table first, with an improvised coffee maker presented by the kind waiting staff.  A taste of the authenticity of Vietnamese cuisine comes with a serving of French bread and fried spring rolls as well. 

The Vietnamese French bread (Bahn Mi) stuffed with pork barbeque is definitely a must-try, the beef barbeque of tender meat and flavored sweet complements well with the crunchy and crispy crust of the bread. It was certainly the best bahn mi that I have tasted.

The fried spring rolls of Ben Than Public Market in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is so far the best that I have tasted.  Pork spring rolls is a default order for me on all Vietnamese restaurants in the Philippines, thus, I can’t help but compare every version of it with that at Vietnam.  Though Rene’s pork spring rolls may not be at par with that of Vietnam, it has a distinct taste still worth the try.

Chao Long in Vietnam is rice porridge with pork innards.  But Palawan’s version is totally different. It is rice noodles in sweet broth and meat, though the type of noodles is different from the pho (noodle soup) which I am familiar with.  The spices and I surmise annatto seeds (achuete) give the distinct appearance of Palawan’s chao long. 

Though I am not a fan of spicy foods, it would be best served with chili paste, just be cautious of the quantity as you might perspire the whole time while eating.

Rene’s restaurant (or residence actually), is just one of the testaments of how the Vietnamese took refuge during the World War in the southern part of Palawan.  Authentic Vietnamese cuisine still thrives on this part of the Philippine archipelago.

While dining, we had a short conversation with another guest, an American, whose mother is a Vietnamese, and one of his reasons for being there was to locate the refugee camp.  He knows that Rene’s mother (owner of the restaurant), a pure Vietnamese, once worked as a chef on the refugee camp.  Getting melodramatic, the scene seems like the plots of Filipino drama series – the search for relatives’ saga.

How authentic is authentic Vietnamese as claimed?  Rene’s Saigon grows their own herbs and vegetables like mint, basil, long tongue, chillies and other vegetables.  Rene’s wife, Vietnamese national as well, sees to it that their noodles are homemade, which is the only way to achieve quality food and do import Vietnamese spices at times.

Ironically, Palawan is one of the provinces in the country that boasts of a local delicacy (not purely local), but one that is home-made in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  Without having to purchase tickets to Vietnam, one may experience authentic Vietnamese cuisine in the Philippines. 

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  1. Im curious with that imrpovised coffee maker

  2. Natuwa naman ako sa story nung American :) Lagi ako pumupunta sa Chao Long place kapag napapadpad ako ng Puerto Princesa. Napuntahan mo ba yung Vietnamese Village?

  3. francis - binebenta ata sya.

    mica- hindi na kasi sabi ng locals dun wla na din marker kaya talahiban nalang sya ngaun. sayang though my isa pa daw na village medyo malayo nga lang sa airport